Arizona State University lost one of its most generous supporters last week with the death of Bruce Halle, who built Discount Tire from one small showroom in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1960 into one of the most successful independent tire dealerships in the industry’s history.
Strong advocates for social justice, higher education, health and medical initiatives and the arts, Halle and his wife, Diane, have channeled their generosity to a range of ASU initiatives since 1985. Their most recent gift supported the newly constructed Herberger Young Scholars Academy, a unique learning environment for gifted children at the ASU West campus.
But his generosity, like his interests and passions, spanned many fields and impacted many individual lives.
“Bruce and Diane’s impact reaches all across Arizona State University,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “Bruce believed in the power of personal involvement as a way to elevate lives, whether with the employees of his company or students here at ASU. His support included important health initiatives through ASU’s partnership with the Mayo Clinic, championing the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and empowering veterans through scholarships. Bruce’s generosity changed the lives of many, many people.”
The Halles directed their generosity to ASU programs that deal with education; health care and health care research; the arts, including the Herberger Institute and the ASU Art Museum; scholarships, including those for veterans; and business education.
What stands out about Bruce Halle’s generosity is his deep concern for the individual, said Gretchen Buhlig, CEO of the ASU Foundation.
“Bruce had an enormously inspiring, up-from-the bootstraps story,” Buhlig said. “One thing that stands out is how deeply he cared for the people he hired at Discount Tire — he was fiercely devoted to his employees.”
“He brought the same care and concern to his partnerships at Arizona State University," she said. "He cared about the individual, and his and Diane’s history here reflects that. We are deeply grateful that he saw ASU as a place where he could make a difference, and that he believed in and supported the mission of the university."
Bruce and Diane’s long history at ASU allowed them to aid the transition between ASU’s previous president, Lattie Coor, with whom they also cultivated a strong relationship, and ASU’s current president Michael Crow and his wife, Sybil Francis, when they arrived at ASU in 2002, she said.
“Bruce and Diane were an important bridge,” Buhlig said. “They welcomed Dr. Crow and Sybil Francis and connected them to the community. Bruce was the kind of person who brought people together for the greater good. We will all miss that about him.”
When Halle started Discount Tire, he rented a small shop and had only six tires. He did everything —changed tires, kept the books, painted the signs and even cleaned the bathrooms. Today, Discount Tire operates more than 975 company-owned stores and employs more than 18,000 people.
In 2002, he and Diane established the Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation to focus their giving on gifts that have deep impact. They also established programs through Discount Tire that enable executive employees to make high-impact gifts in their regions.
Strong supporters of the arts, particularly through Diane’s passion for Latin American art, Bruce and Diane gave generously to the ASU Art Museum, the ASU School of Art, and the Herberger Institute, as well as to scholarship and visiting artist programs that impacted individual students and artists.
“Bruce Halle’s impact will be felt through the arts community for years to come,” said Steven Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute. “He and Diane devoted themselves to arts and design, to bringing exhibits to the public, to the student-artist experience through scholarships and residencies, and more. They were passionate about making sure the general public had access to great art, as evidenced by their support for James Turrell’s ‘ASU Skyspace: Air Apparent’ and the adjacent Diane and Bruce Halle Skyspace Garden near Rural and Terrace roads. We will be forever grateful for their generosity of spirit.”
Deeply personal in their giving, the Halles recently gave a gift to support the Mayo Medical School — Arizona Campus and its collaboration with ASU. At the time, they said the partnership supports a medical education that incorporates the science of health care delivery and offers the opportunity for a master’s degree.